Anoush Najarian (Software Engineering Manager, MathWorks)

Mohammad Emtiyaz Khan (Team Leader, RIKEN Center for AI project)

The Meetup Chairs, Anoush Najarian (Software Engineering Manager, MathWorks) and Mohammad Emtiyaz Khan (Team Leader, RIKEN Center for AI project), would like to tell you about NeurIPS meetups, an initiative pioneered at NeurIPS last year that we are excited about building on. NeurIPS meetups are intended to build a remote presence for NeurIPS.

What are NeurIPS meetups?

A NeurIPS meetup is a local event hosted during the NeurIPS conference, leveraging conference videos and live local content, with a duration ranging from a few hours to a full week, and bringing together participants from one or more companies, universities, and/or the public. Meetups are governed by the NeurIPS Code of Conduct.

Obviously, with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, preparing meetups comes with uncertainty. In fact, it’s really hard to predict with certainty what will be the acceptable norms for social gatherings in December. With such uncertainty, we’ve decided to move forward with preparations while keeping a close eye on how the situation develops. Who knows, perhaps small meetups will be the only reasonable form of NeurIPS physical events by then! We plan on continuing to coordinate with the rest of the organizing committee and provide updates as things evolve. No matter what, meetup organizers will be expected to and have the responsibility of following the government health guidance of their country for events.

NeurIPS Meetups debuted in 2019, with 75 meetups hosted in 35 countries on 6 continents, thanks to hard work by our meetup hosts and supporters worldwide, and the help by Black in AI and WiMLDS, Women in Machine Learning and Data Science. We were delighted that 50% of our hosts were women. The country with the most meetups was Nigeria, ahead of the next country by 50%. In 2020, we’d love to build on this success and introduce new elements, like supermeetups (described below).

Why NeurIPS meetups?

There are many good reasons to bring the NeurIPS experience to local communities:

  • Reducing the need for air travel, and the associated time, cost, and environmental impact
  • Supporting the growth of AI expertise around the world, including in underrepresented communities in tech, and fueling innovation responsibly
  • Creating opportunities for researchers and practitioners who cannot physically attend due to constraints on space, immigration/visas, and exposure to large groups

How can you get involved?

Today, we launched the Call for Meetups. If you wish to organize a NeurIPS meetup, submit your proposal. If you have any questions, send us an email at neurips2020-meetup-chairs@googlegroups.com.

What do we want NeurIPS meetups to be?

We’d love to encourage awesome events where hosts and participants do the following:

  • Leverage recordings and live videos of NeurIPS sessions to share technical content
  • Host live sessions with local AI researchers and practitioners, including local authors of accepted NeurIPS papers who did not travel to the conference
  • Encourage a connection with collocated affinity groups, such as WiML (Women in Machine Learning) and BAI (Black in AI)
  • Gather communities around the same time as NeurIPS, adjusted for their local time zone
  • Have freedom to adapt to local constraints

What is the model for NeurIPS meetups?

There are conferences like WIDS, Women in Data Science to which we’ve looked for inspiration: WIDS is run out of Stanford University, and is presented through a network of local conferences hosted around the globe. One of the Meetup Chairs (Anoush) has found WIDS hosted by WPI, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, to be of great value in nurturing the vibrant data science community in the Boston area. We designed NeurIPS meetups to include elements of the WIDS Ambassador program (e.g., signup form, a website to display all events, etc.); this year, we’re adding new elements like supermeetups (below), and broadening online collaboration.

What have we done so far?

We have surveyed our 2019 NeurIPS meetup hosts. We are talking to many potential partners around the globe… like you!

Check out a map listing planned NeurIPS 2020 meetups. We’ll continue to update it as new meetups are approved.

Supermeetups

This year we are introducing new meetups called “supermeetups”. Supermeetups are meetups meant to attract a large number of participants and to bring the NeurIPS experience to a central location with a large audience outside the main conference. The format of these meetups should closely resemble that of the main conference. We are also hoping to hold some tutorials/keynotes at supermeetups, which can then be streamed back to the main conference. Given the highly visible role with expect supermeetups to play, NeurIPS will be providing them with financial support.

In 2019, a number of metropolitan areas and environs hosted multiple NeurIPS meetups (map): Lagos, Munich, San Fransisco Bay, London/Cambridge, Mumbai, NYC, Paris, Vancouver were prepared to host 2–3 meetups each. These focal points are candidates for 2020 supermeetups.

We hope you like these initiatives. If you have any comments, feel free to send us an email at neurips2020-meetup-chairs@googlegroups.com.

Anoush and Emtiyaz

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